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IndyCar Is Finally Going Hybrid and They’ll Make the Switch This Season

After a five-year wait, IndyCar will roll out the new Honda and Chevrolet hybrid powertrains at Mid-Ohio.

byJerry Perez|
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IndyCar confirmed that Honda and Chevrolet will roll out their new hybrid engines on July 5, concluding a journey that began five years ago with an announcement at the 2019 Indy 500—or what feels like 27 years ago thanks to COVID.

The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will play host to this milestone in the series' history, as it'll be the first time the full grid competes with the new energy recovery system (ERS) on the 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engines supplied by Honda Racing Corporation US and Chevrolet Racing. The new drivetrain is similar—though obviously not identical—to what's used in IMSA's GTP cars and even Formula 1.

The biggest difference is that IndyCar's system uses an ultracapacitor pack in place of a traditional battery. This allows for superfast charging capabilities on track while also helping with weight and packaging. In fact, the ultracapacitors were initially chosen due to the lack of ideal space to store a battery. Another benefit these hold over a battery is their low-voltage, 48-volt nature, compared to the high-voltage systems found in GTP and F1.

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The combination of the motor generator unit (MGU), the internal combustion engine, and the energy storage system (ESS) will provide an estimated 60 additional horsepower to the rear wheels while adding around 120 pounds.

Another big differentiator between IndyCar's new drivetrain and other series is how it harvests energy. Unlike F1 cars and others, Indy cars race on everything from road and street courses to superspeedways. Energy recuperation is fairly straightforward in tracks that involve lots of braking, shifting, coasting, and such, but what about ovals?

In ovals, cars will be fitted with an additional paddle on the back of the steering wheel (similar to the shifting paddles they already possess), which drivers can activate using minimal effort. Pulling on the paddle will engage the MGU and charge the ESS—which would happen rather quickly thanks to the rapid-charging capabilities of the ultracapacitors. In superspeedways, this paddle could be used to coast while in fuel-savings mode, or instead of a driver needing to lift off the throttle for distance management, etc.

Like the existing Push-to-Pass system, which gives drivers additional power for a series-controlled amount of time each race, ERS power will be available during every lap of the race. However, the series will control harvesting and deployment limits for each lap based on the length of the circuit and other variables.

Both automakers claim to have tested the new drivetrain in excess of 24,000 miles and claim to be ready for this new phase of the IndyCar championship. While a mid-season rollout definitely feels odd, it's still massively significant to see the arrival of this new technology after such a long delay.

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